Lisle trailed her hand along the greystone wall beside her as she almost floated through the tunnel deep within Guardian Mountain. The craggy surface tickled her fingers. She watched as the crystalline structure of the rock winked sparkles of light at her, reflecting from the torch sconces hanging along the tunnel wall. Being here filled her with joy and energy. She felt cleansed and renewed. It was as if all the exhausting weeks of traveling and the terrors of pursuit dropped away from her. She reveled in the feeling of the roughened surface beneath her feet, loving the hide slippers she’d been given. The air smelled fresh and clean, despite the fact that no breath of wind disturbed the tranquility of the pathway.
Since their arrival, Lisle had lost count of how many suns had risen and set, she and Ell were immersed in training, learning of their paired role as Guardian and Voice and their place in the Plan of the One. Their teacher was the huge Guardian that Lisle had first encountered when she entered the Cavern of the Guardians. She was Gran Bryl, Eldress and dame of Ell. Gran Bryl communicated with them through her Voice and Contracted, Bryllint, a small woman, brown haired and brown eyed like Lisle. But there the resemblance ended. Bryllint was a powerhouse of energy, striding about the room on her short legs, practically bouncing off the walls in her excitement to communicate all that flowed through her. Lisle loved to watch and listen to her. She was riveted by the connection between Bryllint and Gran Bryl. The two functioned almost as one. Gran Bryl the wisdom and guidance, Bryllint the hands and voice.
Lisle wanted to be this for Ell with a depth of wanting that felt like an unquenchable thirst. Yet, how could she? She struggled to spit words out. It was a battle to say even a short sentence. The only time she could speak plainly was when she was angry. Then the words poured out of her mouth like a river. But that’s no help to me. She thought. I can’t be angry all the time!
In the rare quiet moments, when she and Ell could sit together and share the Pathways, Ell assured Lisle that it would all work out, and that she, herself, already knew everything that was being taught to them. Lisle wondered if it was so, Ell was a very young Guardian, and Lisle wondered how it could all work out. But she trusted Ell with all that was in her. The ways of Guardians were a mystery to Lisle, perhaps Ell really did know.
Lisle often found her new life overwhelming. She sought refuge outside, among the rocks and tundra on the mountain. There, she had a favorite spot overlooking the surrounding countryside, sun-warmed and wind swept. Or she would walk, the scrubby growth of the alpine tundra crunching beneath her feet. It cleared her mind just to be there, allowing the steady breath of the mountainside to wash over her, cleansing away her fears.
Between the teaching, quiet time with Ell and restorative walks, she hadn’t spent as much time as she would have liked with Terris and Moss and especially Gareth, though she knew he was in good hands with the healer, Delorin.
Lisle's lips twitched upward, as she thought of Terris, reveling in his new life here, increasingly in demand in the kitchens as his prowess with a cooking pot became common knowledge. He was kept busy morning till night, chopping, stirring, tasting and hunting his beloved herbs about the countryside.
Moss had adapted to life in Guardian Mountain with ease, and had a following of adoring flier folk. They were fascinated by her dramatic, aerial reenactments of the companion’s adventuresome journey. A journey in which Moss always played the starring role, protecting Ell, and guiding her safely to Guardian Mountain.
Today, Terris and Lisle met in the tunnel, both on their way to see Gareth and glad enough to go together. They entered the room to find Gareth lying upon his pallet, facing the wall.
“Content as a croaker on a log, I see,” said Terris, touching Gareth gently on the shoulder. Gareth gave no reply, only lifting his shoulder away, turning further into the wall.
“What’s this?” asked Terris, and looked at Lisle.
“G…Gareth, d…does y…your leg p…p…pain you?” Lisle moved closer, bending over him.
“Go away,” said Gareth.
Lisle stood up and looked in bewilderment at Terris. Her stomach clenched and she felt a roiling, burning sensation within. Anger, and fear. What does Gareth have to be afraid of? She thought. Lisle moved away from the bedside to stand beside Terris.
Terris shrugged. “Come on, he’ll likely feel more like comp’ny later.”
The next day, feeling reticent and worried, Lisle found Terris and bade him accompany her to see Gareth again. The response from Gareth was the same, except this time with his back turned, face to the wall, he said nothing. They left him wrapped in silence.
Lisle was hurt and confused by his response, or lack of it. She was afraid she must have done something to anger him, but what could she have done? She felt afraid for him, afraid of losing him. He wasn’t getting better.
Lisle sought out the healer, Delorin. The healer just shook her head. “It should have been healing by now. I don’t know what else we can do. Until that young man wants to heal, I can’t help him.”
Disturbed, Lisle found a quiet spot and closed her eyes. Feeling within, she sought Ell, sending her awareness down into the heart area of her chest, and turning slowly. There, she felt the pull, the happy feeling she knew would lead her to Ell. Lisle followed the twisting turns of tunnels, always taking the turn in the direction of where she felt that tingling joy that was Ell. She entered a deep cavern. It housed the hot pools, hidden away within the depths of Guardian Mountain. The air smelled of eggs, but Lisle didn’t find it unpleasant. Through the warm steam rising from the pool and fogging the air, she saw Ell, floating lazily, all but her eyes, nostrils and spinal ridge under the bubbling surface. Lisle sat on the greystone ledge at the side of the pool and draped her hand into the water beside Ell. It was hot, too hot. She pulled her hand out quickly, blowing on reddened fingers.
Ell raised her head and nuzzled Lisle’s fingers. Then she looked up into Lisle’s eyes, gold meeting brown. Lisle felt a tingling sensation wash up and over her, love welling up within her and overflowing. Taking in a deep, grateful breath, she reached down to scratch Ell behind the ear opening at the side of her head. Ell’s scaly hide felt warm and flexible under Lisle’s fingers, and Ell leaned her head into Lisle’s hand.
Haltingly, Lisle told Ell of her concern about Gareth, her fear of losing him, the fact that he wasn’t allowing himself to heal, and her worry that he was somehow angry with her. She put it all into words, slowly and without rushing herself.
Ell listened patiently, floating in the steaming water beside her. Lisle felt her loving presence gratefully, even as she struggled to form all those words.
She took a deep breath as her words ran down and the need behind them finally released. Then she looked up, eyes wide. Lisle knew what she needed to do and she needed to do it now.
In case you missed a post, or if you've just tuned in to Lisle's story,
here are links to previously posted chapters to save you scrolling all the way through.
Introduction Prologue Chapter 1 Chapter 2 Chapter 3 Chapter 4 Chapter 5
Chapter 6 Chapter 7 Chapter 8 Chapter 9 Chapter 10 Chapter 11 Chapter 12 Chapter 13
Chapter 14 Chapter 15 Chapter 16 Chapter 17 Chapter 18 Chapter 19 Chapter 20
Chapter 21 Chapter 22 Chapter 23 Chapter 24 Chapter 25 Chapter 26 Chapter 27
Chapter 28 Chapter 29 Chapter 30 Chapter 31 Chapter 32 Chapter 33 Chapter 34
Chapter 35 Chapter 36 Chapter 37 Chapter 38 Chapter 39 Chapter 40
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